Serverless vs Docker Containers: Which one is Better?

Chris Bateson
5 min readNov 29, 2023

Cloud services are becoming more diverse and efficient, allowing developers to create faster, cheaper, and more scalable applications. Serverless and Dockers are two technologies that are examples of Faas and PaaS, respectively. These are some of the most popular and recommended solutions in cloud computing, as they make application development and deployment simple and flexible.

In this article, I will examine the difference between serverless computing vs containers technologies and their advantages and disadvantages. The article will also provide examples of using serverless and Docker for application development and deployment.

What is a Serverless Cloud Computing Model?

Serverless is a popular and innovative cloud computing model. It eliminates the need for servers, hardware and storage. Developers only need to write code, package it (usually in a container), and invoke it as needed. Serverless allows businesses to buy backend services from a provider based on requirements and save money by paying only for the features used. It also allows developers to write functions they want for their application and let the provider execute them. The function is then delivered to the client.

Serverless also enables adding new features to the system more quickly, reduces the development time, and allows programmers to concentrate on the application logic and code. It leads to faster time to market. Serverless offers many advantages for startups and helps them launch their products faster.

Advantages of using serverless

  1. No servers: Serverless allows developers to build applications without managing servers or backend infrastructure. The vendor handles the servers and their maintenance, eliminating the need for an operating system and helping to lower the costs significantly. Serverless also enables developers to scale applications beyond the vendor’s server limitations and is critical when comparing serverless and container technologies.
  2. Scalable: One of the critical advantages of Serverless is its scalability, and applications can be scaled automatically when the usage spikes unexpectedly. When the usage increases, serverless applications can cope with the demand and efficiently handle any number of requests. Developers can adjust the capacity of applications as per their requirements.
  3. Cost-effective: Serverless cloud computing technologies charge developers only for features they use, which helps lower the cost. Unlike the conventional architecture, developers can buy features as required, where the functionality has to be estimated before starting a project. Serverless code only executes when backend functions are needed with AWS consulting services.
  4. Reduced latency: Serverless has a lower latency and faster startup time than containers. Applications can run from any location without a server, allowing developers to choose servers near the users. This ensures that requests don’t have to be sent far to reach a server, significantly reducing latency.

Disadvantages of using serverless

  1. Serverless applications become complex to debug as they grow. This is due to the nature of FaaS application architecture.
  2. Serverless is vendor-dependent; changing the cloud provider can be difficult and tedious.
  3. Serverless architecture can be more expensive because of the operation and support of basic infrastructure.
  4. Serverless architecture can be challenging to implement correctly and often requires much initial human resource investment.

Examples of serverless computing

  1. Coca-Cola: The soft drink giant Coca-Cola adopted serverless technology for its vending machines 2016. Every time someone buys a drink, the payment gateway contacts the AWS API Gateway and activates the AWS Lambda function to finish the transaction. The vending machine must communicate with the main office for stock and marketing purposes, and paying per request is more cost-effective than operating at total capacity.
  2. Netflix: An online content provider, Netflix can deliver its services globally without AWS interruptions. AWS allows Netflix to launch multiple servers and increase storage within minutes. Users can watch Netflix content from any location and device, including the web and smart devices.

What is Dockers?

Docker is a set of open-source tools that enables developers to create, deploy, and manage containers. They are lightweight application hosting environments. Containers are self-contained units of software that include everything they need to run in any environment. Containers are separated from each other and the host system and interact through predefined channels. Containers use the same operating system kernel and consume fewer resources than a virtual machine.

Advantages of Docker

  1. Higher productivity: Docker plays a vital role in computing services and offers a consistent environment for various development stages. This uniform infrastructure makes it simpler for engineers to detect and fix any security problems sooner. Docker uses containers to create different environments depending on the app’s needs, making it convenient to move and run the application anywhere.
  2. Cloud services: Docker has been adopted by many container cloud computing vendors, who have added support systems to facilitate its use. The Google Compute Platform is one company that has taken to this version of container computing. Docker is ideal for providers like Azure, as it can be used with a configuration manager.
  3. Resource isolation: Docker enables resource isolation and segregation. All applications allocate their resources, leading to cost reduction. Docker allows different containers to run applications using different stacks. Each application has its container library, making it easy to delete an app without affecting others.
  4. Continuous deployment: Docker offers more flexibility than other tools and containers, allowing developers to make and test changes quickly. Docker allows developers to build, test, and deploy images across multiple servers. It keeps the configuration and dependencies inside the containers, reducing the chances of errors.

Disadvantages of Docker

  1. Docker containers lack cross-platform support. Docker is Linux-only and needs virtual machines to run on other platforms.
  2. The data within the container gets deleted as soon as the container shuts down. The only way to save this data in Docker is to use Docker Data Volumes. However, this can be a challenge as issues must be addressed to protect data seamlessly.
  3. Though the Docker platform is open source, many container products do not work with others.
  4. Docker has poor support for graphical applications. It’s designed mainly for web applications and services, not GUI applications or desktops.

Examples of Docker

  1. PayPal: PayPal uses Docker to containerize its existing applications and secure workloads. PayPal’s key-value store, JunoDB, is an application developed using Docker. The Docker image of JunoDB is available on GitHub. PayPal also uses Docker to test various features of the PayPal Sandbox using React.js and PayPal’s REST SDK.

Difference Between Serverless Vs. Docker Containers

  1. Management Complexity: Serverless simplifies management by abstracting away infrastructure entirely. In contrast, Docker containers require more management, albeit less than traditional infrastructure.
  2. Event-Driven vs. Application-Centric: Serverless is event-driven, ideal for individual functions. Docker containers are more application-centric, encapsulating the entire application stack.
  3. Scaling Models: Serverless scales automatically based on demand for specific functions. Docker containers require manual scaling or can use orchestration tools like Kubernetes for automation.
  4. Pricing Models: Serverless follows a pay-as-you-go model based on function execution. Docker containers may have more predictable pricing based on the resources allocated to the container.

Final Words

Serverless and Docker are complementary parts of cloud computing. Both services help develop microservices but suit different needs. For developers wanting to focus on applications and not worry about architecture with AWS consulting services, serverless is the right choice. Docker containers are a better choice for developers wishing to have control over both the application and specific system architecture it runs on. The choice of these technologies depends on the developer’s requirements.

--

--

Chris Bateson

Explorer of Technology. Loves to Stay updated with News & Trends in the Business & Tech Space.